Dry Leaves

by Mel Baggins

The cool autumn wind blows through the elven city of Imladris. It has done so for ages past, since first Manwe commanded them to blow from Valinor, and Yavanna sprouted the first of the trees, young then in the quiet of the world. This day, however, the wind holds a strange bitterness.

The leaves on the trees, a myriad of orange and gold, red and copper, rustle as if in protest. Never have they known such rough treatment, such harsh cold. Soon they grow weary of their place on the branch, and fall. Never has such a thing happened here.

The days go on, and still the leaves fall, pooling around the feet of the Lord who had protected the realm for so long. Sadly, he reaches for one, twirling its stem between his fingers. Leaves have fallen before in Imladris, but always they were young, healthy, quickly replaced by new leaves and fragrant blossoms to sweeten the air and bring beauty and joy to his people. Not like this, these are just dry leaves.

When did it come to this? Is it the will of the Valar that all things eventually end? Did Illuvatar know from the beginning, was it of his own design that things would die, that the story would have an end? Must it end?

Sillness. Quiet assaults the delicate ears of the Elven Lord. He has sent his people away, towards a distant shore to where all is evergreen. No leaves fall there. As he leans against the bridge, gazing into the dark rippling water, he sees his own reflection. At first the image startles him, for it seems to be the image of an old man, wearied and haggard by the cares his life had brought him. Another glance shows a great and proud Lord, a King without subjects, ruler of an empty land. Yet a third reveals a lonely husband, pining for his lost wife. And the last, before turning away, shows a father, tired and heartsick for the children he has sent away, for so desperate he was to save them from themselves and this cruel world they had been born into.

So much this timeless Lord has seen- countless wars, myriads of enemies, the depth of darkness. He had long ago watched his brother age and wither, succumbing to the Fate of Men as he chose to, while he was fated to go on. His parents sailed away to share the sky together, leaving him alone on the earth. After a time, even his wife left him, anguished by the darkness inflicted upon her. Now even his beloved city is dying, crumbling around him, reminding him of what he no longer has.

This indeed is the woe of the Eldar- that the deathless should live in a world that is ever changing. For centuries they had kept their realms secure, where the land around would change and age as slowly as they, but now in this time of darkness even that power has failed them. That is the real power of the Dark One- not orcs and wars and death, but despair and helplessness. All beauty turning to ugliness, all life turning to death.

All green, nothing but dry leaves.

“Tell me what you have seen.”

Arwen.

“What did you see?”

I saw death. I looked into your future, and I saw naught but dry leaves.

“But there is also life.”

That future is almost gone- there is only winter, there will be no spring.

“It is not lost.”

All is lost, all is dead and dying. Even you are cold now to my touch. When did you become such beautiful ice? What will I do when you melt?

“If I leave him now, I will regret it forever.”

As will I if you do not.

“There is no ship now that can bear me hence.”

For all I have done, trying desperately to protect you from yourself, it was all in vain. I cannot protect you anymore- but perhaps, I never had too.


The sun rises as the last of the elves of Imladris depart. They ride for Gondor, and the marriage of the fair Lady Arwen. All is ready in the courtyard, the people mounted on their steeds, dressed in finery. Just as they take their leave of their home, the Lord Elrond takes one last look at his fading realm, none truly knowing the heaviness in his heart. He turns to go and follow his kin, but as he does he stops. Something catches his eye. As he looks up, high up into the tree beside him, he sees something out of place. High on a branch, among the forest of orange and gold, is a speck of green.

But there is also life.

Lord Elrond gazed upon the new bud, and smiled. Turning his horse, he left his home, and did not look back.


Without darkness, there can be no light. Without winter, there can be no spring.